Stand up and take responsibility, Jacques van der Westhuizen writes. Photo: Neil Baynes

JOHANNESBURG – Players are often criticised for making poor decisions on the field, but the officials who govern the game also get it wrong sometimes. In fact, they get it very wrong sometimes.

Yet, it is the players - because they’re out there in the middle where everyone can see them - who always seem to cop the worst, and most, criticism. The men in the suits, who’re often the big decision-makers, are hidden from view and their calls are never quite as “in-your-face” and are often excused, ignored or somehow not deemed all that significant or important.

These men - chairmen, CEOs, bosses, whatever - should ask themselves if the decisions they make are good for the game. And, why they believe those decisions are good for the game.

Just this last weekend, in a World Cup 2019 qualifying match, Belgium beat Spain 18-10 in Brussels, which meant Romania qualified for the tournament.

Spain missed out in the mini log standings by a point from Romania, with Georgia first - the top two going through.

What is shocking about the result in Brussels is that the match officials - the referee and the assistants - were Romanian, appointed by Rugby Europe, whose chairman is Romanian. A full month ago Spain asked for the officials to be changed, but allegedly Rugby Europe (and possibly even World Rugby) flat out denied the request. 

Also, it appears the Romanian referee, who did not have a TMO to help him (and nor was there a match clock), apparently awarded Belgium 25 penalties, to Spain’s four.

Now, no one is saying cheating took place or the match officials favoured one team above the other, but it doesn’t look good. The Spanish team were furious afterwards, and understandably so, and one wonders whether World Rugby will step in and void the result and enforce a replay, with neutral officials. It simply has to be done.

The whole ugly incident could have easily been avoided had those decision-makers, the men in the suits, made the right decisions in the first place. I ask, why did they believe appointing officials who may have been seen to be biased to officiate the match was right?

Then there’s the matter of last year’s Super Rugby final, at Ellis Park, between the home team from South Africa, the Lions, and the Crusaders, from New Zealand. South African referee Jaco Peyper was named to officiate it, Sanzaar saying he was the best man for the job. 

Again, and as the result proved, I’m not suggesting bias, or cheating, but why not appoint a neutral referee (from Australia or Argentina) to handle the game? It’s simple stuff, really.

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And just a few weeks ago the Lions “cancelled” all their media activities in the week leading up to the big Gauteng derby against the Bulls - just to reinstate certain events for the week when they got flak for their decision. In this instance, one’s got to ask why they thought it was a good idea, and what did they think they would gain out of making that decision?

Another example of poor decision-making comes from Sanzaar who’ve thought it a good idea for the Lions to face the Crusaders in a Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Easter Sunday afternoon. I can’t understand how and why this is a good time to play the match? 

It’s a big game - a repeat of last year’s final - but why on a day many people get together with their families or friends to enjoy a late Easter Sunday lunch or a lazy braai. And, seeing it’s a long weekend and school holidays, many people may also be away over that weekend.

The day before, the Saturday, the Bulls host the Stormers at Loftus, at 5.15pm, in the only match locally on that day. Why not let the Lions and Crusaders face off in the earlier game, at 3pm?

Is it just me, or do you also sometimes wonder how the game’s decision-makers get it so wrong sometimes?



The Star

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